As we move closer and closer to the NFL's April 28-30th draft, I'll be unveiling a two round round mock draft starting with round one and then today's picks 33-64. On to round two where the Patriots have another 15 picks and the Broncos will select Ryan Mallet as insurance for Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn... After all, variety is key in the NFL.
With the pick, the Patriots essentially acquire their third first round talent and add more depth to their defensive line.
Heyward slips here to the Patriots because of different needs for other teams and because the trend for DE's is towards hybrid DE's/OLB's who can rush or drop back into coverage.
Heyward is more of a throw back defensive lineman as he is a bit bigger than most. At 6'5 300 lbs. the Ohio State star could almost double as a defensive tackle. However his incredible athleticism and speed is what separates him from the pack and makes him so attractive.
Needing a replacement for current starting left end Mike Wright, Heyward is the perfect pick. The Patriots are high on Wright's current backup Brandon Deadrick, but adding more depth and athleticism never hurts.
Now that the Bills gambled on Newton as their franchise quarterback, they need to surround him with as many weapons as possible.
Kyle Rudolph is the best tight end in the draft and the first taken here at the top of the second round. The pick is stage two in the Bill's 'Pimp My Ride' overhaul.
Now that you've got the flashy Benz, you need to add the toys. Lots of people have a Mercedes so if you really want to roll in style you've got to add the pieces to stand out. Rudolph has the chance to really help the Bills offense and instantly provides a weapon down the seem that the Bills are desperately lacking.
Think of him as a Jermichael Finley type player. The one down side is that the Bills need to handle him with care as he has a history of being injury prone.
The Bengals offer Carson Palmer a very athletic and talented olive branch in Julio Jones in the first round. In the second, they draft an insurance pick and their quarterback of the future. If Palmer doesn't like the fact the Bengals drafted a quarterback and uses it as an excuse to leave, it's his own stupid fault.
The Bengals are stuck in the classic prisoner's dilemma. The psychology component to game theory is a popular economic model for explaining profit maximization in a competitive marketplace and goes as follows:
Two suspects are caught, put in separate interrogation rooms and questioned for their role in a crime. If one of the suspects talks, he goes free and the other gets 10 years. If neither talks, there is insufficient evidence to really charge them so they get only a few months for conspiracy. If both talk, they end up getting a lesser sentence, but are still found guilty of the crime and receive five years each.
Despite all the pressure and goading of the police, the two suspects should remain silent. The Bengals and Carson Palmer are both the 'prisoners' here.
Carson Palmer wants out and is threatening to retire, but let's be honest he still wants to play. So now the Bengals have a hard choice. If they choose Mallet, they essentially are saying we are moving forward, but for the next few years at least, they are really a better team with Palmer. The situation is not ideal.
If they stay quiet, draft another offensive weapon or lineman for Palmer, maybe their disenfranchised quarterback realizes Cincinnati is probably the best spot for him (definitely better than Arizona maybe not San Fran), doesn't force a trade and both win.
However Cincinnati is taking a big risk and showing the renegade quarterback a lot of loyalty. If they don't take Mallet (or another QB) and Palmer ditches them anyway, the Bengals are screwed.
Ideally for the fans and organization both the Bengals and Palmer don't stir the pot and reconcile. But of course, that never happens.
Anyway... the Bengals take Mallet make a trade later and get rid of Palmer. Both lose.
The Broncos went out and got their defensive tackle in Nick Fairley, a selection they should be very pleased with.
Defense probably should be addressed again here (maybe even another defensive lineman) but with Tebow taking over the reigns, the Broncos want to make sure that he has all the tools to be successful (similar idea to the Bills taking Rudolph).
The Broncos have decent receivers, but no one who can really stretch the field. Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd are more possession receivers. Lloyd's career 18.8 ypc average ( an inflated career high) can be attributed more because the Broncos opened up the offense and he was the only who is somewhat fast more than his blazing speed.
Kentucky's Randall Cobb however is a legitimate deep threat who can help Tebow make the transition to full time starting quarterback.
With Cobb in the slot, the offense should continue to blossom.
Plus think of all the trick plays John Fox could run with quarterback/runner Tim Tebow and wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb who ran, threw and caught touchdowns in a game last year.
Now that the Browns got their coveted receiver in Green, the focus shifts to defense.
The Browns are desperate for help upfront at the end positions. Ahtyba Rubin looks like he could be a great young nose tackle, but Cleveland needs more help.
(By the way, Athyba also has to be the wildest spelling of a first name I've come across in a while).
Marvin Austin is a definite possibility here, but he is also a truer nose tackle and doesn't have the athleticism that Clayborn does.
At 6'3 286, Clayborn can still take up space - a necessity in a 3-4 defense - but is active and athletic enough to play on the end and disrupt the running game and occasionally get to the quarterback.
Even with the character concerns and his Erb's Palsy condition (which can be treated), Clayborn is worth the risk at this juncture. He is a major upgrade over Brian Schaefering and Kenyon Coleman, the Brown's other starting DE, is 32.
Cincinnati and the Cardinals both panic here.
Arizona trades their second pick and a third round pick in next year's drafts for the rights to Carson Palmer. The Bengals truculent Qb gets his wish and is unceremoniously shipped off to the desert leaving Cincinnati once and for all.
In the short term, the trade helps Arizona. They get a quality veteran starter who has experience playing with top wide receivers in Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson. He and Fitzgerald should click right away, which could be enough to get Fitzgerald to re-up with Arizona, an outcome that would have no price tag.
For the Bengals, the trade pretty much stunts the rest of Chad Johnson's career and guarantees the rebuilding process is fully underway. It's only down the road that it makes more sense as the Bengals build a core group of young players. It also buys Marvin Lewis a little bit more time.
Here is the reaction to the trade.
Fitzgerald: Hell yah! (Jumps off the couch and immediately leaves the house for a 15 mile run to get in even better shape forgetting/ignoring the fact that he is wearing slippers).
Johnson: Smashes the camera that is following him for his reality show, tweets "Eff you Mike Brown" followed by "Cincinnati, I quit" before driving to the airport and flying to Kansas City. There he officially changes his name to Chad 'Mago' (the name for wizard in spanish) and joins the soccer team Kansas City Sporting, whose nickname is coincidentally the Wizards. The sports world never hears from him again.
Palmer: Shows up in Arizona, gets addicted to golf, starts hanging out with girls in hot tubs and gains 20 pounds. He sucks in training camp, gets cut and is replaced by the newly reacquired Derek Anderson. (Ok the last part is a bit of stretch).
Anyway back to the selection - the actual point of this slide - the Bengals take Jabaal Sheard. He is a late first round talent at DE, but because the draft is so stocked at that position and because of a previous arrest, he falls to the early part of the second round.
The Titans are desperate for a quarterback to replace the aging Kerry Collins (wasn't the same thing written 7 years ago??) and the pick comes down to Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton from TCU.
Christian Ponder helped himself the most of any quarterback with an outstanding combine and given he played in a West Coast pro-style offense, he is the pick over Dalton. It could go either way though. Both have the games and demeanor to be quality quarterbacks in the league.
Now that they got their man - and the best cornerback in the draft - in Patrick Peterson, the Cowboys are set. You look up and down their roster and it's hard to find a weakness.
The only area of concern has to be Keith Brookings' age and finding an eventual backup quarterback for Romo given Kitna is an astounding 38 years old.
The trouble is that the 2nd round is too high for a backup quarterback and there is a lack of quality linebackers at this position, which means that the Cowboys should draft the best player available.
Lucky for them, that's Marvin Austin, one of the best tackles in the draft who could have easily gone in the top 15. Even better, Austin would also be an instant upgrade over left end Stephen Bowen. Even though the UNC standout is better suited at the nose tackle position he is nimble and quick enough to shift over and anchor the end position in Dallas' 3-4 defense.
With Austin and Peterson, the Cowboys have to be the deepest team. Then again we said that last year and they end up drafting 9th overall.
They're like that menu you see online. The food looks absolutely mouth-watering so you go the next night and order the gourmet goat cheese with grilled onions buffalo burger.
It finally arrives and the bread is crappy, the meat is overcooked and the goat cheese doesn't go with the onions. Total disappointment.
It's hard to imagine that they will turn in a repeat performance with Peterson and Austin and a healthy Romo.
The worst kept secret in Washington (which is saying something for the nation's capital) is that Donovan McNabb is done as a Redskin although we all knew that as soon as Rex Grossman took over.
Shanahan wants to continue remake the Redskins into his own team and it starts with drafting Andy Dalton. If Christian Ponder goes to the Titans, then Andy Dalton is the choice here. If Dalton goes first, then the order is reversed.
Dalton is the strong armed mobile quarterback Shanahan covets.
Stephen Paea could easily be the pick here because Amobi Okoye is going to be the Texans only true nose tackle of starting potential in Wade Phillips new 3-4 defense. However, the gamble is that Shaun Cody can fill in as decent backup.
Instead the Texans go after UVA's Ras-I Dowling with the idea that having already addressed the defensive line with their first pick, its time to fix the secondary because last year the secondary was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad.
(the o's equate to the number of touchdowns opposing quarterbacks tossed against the Texans magnified by another 10 fold. The Houston secondary was historically awful).
With Kareem Jackson and Ras-I Dowling, Wade Phillips has the makings of a decent foundation to work with.
One reason Brett Farve couldn't 'replicate the magic' was because he was thrashed by opposing defenses. At times it looked like some of the offensive line were didn't want Farve to break the consecutive starts streaks the way they allowed their signal caller to take brutal shots..
So the Vikings need to make sure they shore up the line before handing the reigns to a young signal caller. Thank being said, the line will have to wait until next pick as Minnesota needs to establish its quarterback of the future.
Drum roll please... Jake Locker. After a horrible Senior Week, Locker bounced back with a nice Combine, which should be enough to sell the Vikings.
Locker's fall from a top 15 pick last year to a second round pick this year is a cautionary tale for players (apparently not for Stanford's Andrew Luck) and for NFL (and NBA teams for that matter).
Scouts and teams get so caught up in the hype of one or two good games and work outs. Sometimes its better to wait and look and watch the whole movie rather than just a few short clips.
Still Locker may actually benefit in the long run as overcoming the adversity (and the loss of millions) will make him tougher mentally and hungrier.
Detroit needs help at corner. Harris is the best available. Done deal.
The Lions have serious fire power (or will this year) on offense. With Bowers and now Harris, they have some on defense too.
The Charlie Whitehurst experiment is pretty much already over. Seattle moves up in the draft to take Kaepernick - by far the best remaining quarterback on the board - as a replacement for Matt Hasselbeck and San Francisco gets an extra third round pick in return.
It works out well for both teams: Seattle needs a more legitimate future quarterback and San Francisco - who now has their franchise QB in Gabbert - doesn't have any pressing needs that drafting at this position can solve.
It gets even better. Kaepernick gets a year to study under Hasselbeck and San Francisco gets added depth.
But wait there's more: Seattle doesn't really lose out on a 3rd round pick because they will dump Whitehurst on some poor sucker who waited to long to address the position.
Hang on, I'm not done!!! Order now... wait, oops, sorry.
The Broncos passed on Marvin Austin to go after a wide receiver with their first second round pick. The beneficiary of Miami's second round pick, Denver has the chance to go back and address the DT position for a second time in the draft. What was once a grave lack of talent at defensive tackle, Denver now has one of the most feared duo's in the league with Fairley and Nevis. Drafting two players at the same position is certainly not unheard of. In Denver's case it was almost necessary.
In order for Bradford to keep progressing, he needs more weapons and a dangerous, talented Hankerson would do wonders for the young quarterback. The fact that Bradford played as well as he did with the receivers he had was exceptional and is a testament to how good the offensive rookie of the year really is.
Bradford needs Hankerson to take the offense and the Rams to the next level. If I was the Ram's GM Billy Devaney, I would do everything in my power to ensure Bradford is comfortable and has everything he needs to succeed.
Definitely the most sentimental pick in the draft. His uncle Steve played 13 seasons for the Raiders making the Pro Bowl eight times in Silver and Black. Steve was recently hired back by Al Davis as an assistant coach, making Wisniewski the front runner for pick.
Not only would Wisniewski being tutored by his Uncle be cool to see, he is also a very good offensive lineman.
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished 31rst against the pass. Not very good... As long as Peyton Manning is around they are probably never going to crack the top 15 because Peyton will kill your secondary stats faster than Tony Siragusa can polish off a couple of Quarter Pounders.
In an ideal world, the Jags would upgrade both cornerback and safety in this round, but obviously that's not possible. Forced to choose, the Jags take Rahim Moore, one of, if not the, highest rated safety in the draft.
Depth at cornerback is a concern for the Chargers and while they probably won't be able to keep both Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson making receiver a more urgent matter, the quality of receiver doesn't fit the value at this pick.
Therefore the Chargers will take Brown, one of the top rated defensive backs, and address WR with their second pick in this round. A.J. Smith is a clever GM and knows how to manipulate a draft.
To bring Smith down a notch however, whether he takes Brown or Pitts' receiver Jon Baldwin first, both will probably still be there in a few picks (at least in this mock draft). People will call the crafty Smith prudent and patient blah blah. In this case, he just benefits from having two of the next 11 picks and is going after players at positions other teams don't need. (That was my Colts' fan in me).
Either way the Chargers will win big this round.
The Bucs thought they could employ the two back set with Cadillac Williams as the starter and LeGarrette Blount spelling him. Turned out it was the other way around. Blount roared onto the scene just as fast as Williams disappeared. Harry Potter and company can't even disappear as fast as Cadillac has. Its unbelievable. The guy went from an explosive 1,000 rookie rusher who looked like he had half a dozen Pro Bowls in him, to barely breaking 400 yards in (one of his only) healthy seasons.
As Bill Simmons would say, he's so washed up his nickname should be "low tide."
Therefore, the Bucs add Ryan Williams with this pick. With Blount's breakout year you could argue that it's not a pressing need. Here me out. Williams to Tampa Bay actually makes a world of sense.
1. It takes a lot of the pressure off of Blount and keeps him healthy longer
2. Williams is probably the best overall player on the board at this point (Williams or Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure)
3. Remember what happened to Cadillac? He had a breakout rookie season and then poof. What happens if Blount goes down? You going to turn back and fire up the Cadillac again? I don't think so. It's ancient and rundown.
Rarely does this happen in the draft, but two teams thinking along the same lines, with the same needs, get their man.
Psyched that Tampa passed on Leshoure, the Giants can't get to the phones fast enough to snatch up the running out of Illinois.
It's the same logic. After his weird helmet throwing incident, Jacobs has had his bags packed. Thinking they were heading for the playoffs, Coughlin didn't want to get rid of Jacobs during the season. However especially now that Leshoure is available the Giants can clear out Jacobs' locker and actually provide an upgrade. Derrick Ward is good but can't stay healthy and the Giants operate better with a two back rotation anyway.
Some how, some way, Stephen Paea falls all the way to pick 53 right into the Colts' laps. It's a miracle!
Ok maybe not, it's probably more that other teams have strangely gone in a different direction. But if I could will it to happen in real life, I would. The Colts are desperate for run support and the undersized but stout Paea is just the player we need to shore up an embarrassingly poor run defense.
In fairness, Paea is being seriously considered by only a handful of teams and could indeed go to the Colts. The Texans are said to most interested, but Paea being here really depends on where Marvin Austin goes. The longer he stays on the board, and it's looking like he will last into the second round, the better chance the Colts have of grabbing Paea.
Pairing Paea with Colts' current starting DT Fili Moala, the Colts could form the "Great Wall of Tonga"
as both Paea and Moala are Tongan decent!
Ok so Moala is only of Tongan descent and not technically from there, but what are the odds that two guys descendent from a tiny island in the South Pacific with a population of just over 100,000 people, could end up starting next to each other on the same defensive line?
No idea, but its fantastic!!
"The Great Wall of Tonga" it is! The Colts' really need to draft Paea now. If the Texans spoil this fantasy combination, Peyton will have to go and hang five touchdowns on them per game for the next six years to make up for it.
Other fun facts about Tonga:
- It's a constitutional monarchy
- It's hottest month is January (with an average high of 82 degrees)
- It participated in President Bush's the "coalition of the willing" sending 40 troops to fight in Iraq
- It has phenomenal looking beaches
Unfortunately for Michael Vick its not the Chris Carter (can you imagine Jackson, Maclin and Chris Carter....seesh), still the Eagles will be happy to add the pass rushing linebacker out of Fresno State into the mix.
In a top-heavy DE draft class, Chris Carter will be overlooked. Previous years he probably would have been taken in the first round after posting 10 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. With Cameron Jordan, J.J. Watt and the like ahead of him, that won't happen this year. That is just fine in Philly.
For such a good defense it's a surprise the Chiefs only have one reliable pass rusher amongst their front four. It's incredible how much pressure they can generate. The Chiefs also might be the only elite team built top down on defense, meaning their secondary carries their front seven. To see that these days is extremely rare and is a compliment to how good the secondary is.
Still, it never hurts to create even more stress for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks. Allen Bailey from Miami is just the player to do that. While he might not fit a position in the NFL as he is undersized and somewhat of a tweener, the terms explosive, hard working, upside and disruptive (as in on the field) have been used to describe him.
Sounds pretty good to me.
The Saints only have six picks total and two crapshoots in the seventh round so they especially need to make the most of early ones. They picked up Phil Taylor in round one and stay on the defensive line to add Texas DE Sam Acho. Not only will he bolster the pass rush, Acho is also stout in run support, which considering the Saints have to go up against Michael Turner, LeGarrette Blount and the duo of DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart, that's probably a good quality to possess.
With the injury prone Chris Spencer likely not to be re-signed, the Seahawks will need to draft an interior lineman as a replacement. Baylor's Danny Watkins seems like an ideal candidate. A powerful run blocker who is said to have a real mean streak, hopefully Watkins can open some holes so we can all enjoy more of Marshawn Lynch's Madden 2005 epic runs. That was honestly probably my favorite play of the year. It had to be. What can beat this?
Not since Chris Mcallister's prime have the Ravens had lock down corner. I am not saying Chimdi Chekwa is going to be that shutdown player. However standing at 6'0, 191 and still able to run a 4.38 shows that Chekwa at least has the physical tools.
Even if he is not great, Chekwa will provide much needed depth and will quickly assume a starting role. Not bad for a late second round selection.
Tony Gonzalez is slowing down at an accelerating pace (crazy opposing speeds going on there). While he has one or maybe two good years left, Atlanta needs to find his replacement and has the luxury of depth and talent elsewhere across the board to focus on tight end. They already went out and got Torrey Smith, which was a much needed and smart acquisition. With their second pick they take Jake Stocker out of Tennessee. It's a perfect selection. Stocker has a chance to learn and develop under Gonzalez and Ryan doesn't lose a key weapon in a year or two when Gonzalez hangs them up.
As I've been saying throughout the mock draft, teams with young quarterbacks need to give them the tools to succeed. It's a very tough position to start out in. Not saying this is the case with Ryan because he is on the cusp of stardom, but if you shatter a rookie quarterback's confidence he may never get it back. Just ask Kyle Boller, Aliki Smith, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf... They'll tell you.
Young NFL qb's are like teenage girls, a weird thought I know, but hear me out. Like freshman girls, a young quarterback's confidence is very fragile. The minute a girl (can be guys too I suppose) is called fat/ugly or has a acne breakout that lasts more than 24 hours, one of three things happen:
1. She turns to books killing her social life but landing her in Harvard Law (what parents secretly hope for).
2. She goes through a gothic/punk phase (it weirds parents out at first but, they know eventually their daughter will grow out of it)
3. She becomes addicted to shopping and MTV videos convinced that new clothes are the only way she will ever be accepted or popular (every parent's nightmare)
The NFL equivalent:
1. You are the star until the pros when you get trashed by critics and eventually realize that you are smart, nice guy, decent at football, but are probably better suited for a career somewhere else. Candidates include: Joey Harrington, Tim Couch Alex Smith, Kyle Boller, J.P. Losman
2. Overwhelmed by the money, you lose focus and enjoy life a little too much before eventually maturing and coming around to have a semi-decent career. Candidates and potential candidates include: Matt Leinart (toss-up possibly in category 3), Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, Rex Grossman, Michael Vick (extreme comeback)
3. Spoiled and immature, image means everything. Codine, Alcohol or simply bad tempers don't help, these guys are doomed not to succeed in the league. Candidates include: JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young (toss-up possibly in category 2), Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith and Quincy Carter.
So yeah, about that Luke Stocker... Nice pick Atlanta.
The New England Patriots have no depth at middle linebacker and need somebody to spell Mayo and Guyton. Martez Wilson is not only a middle linebacker but also the best player available. Boom done.
San Diego wanted a cornerback and a receiver in the second round. With their earlier pick they take Curtis Brown from Texas and depth to their secondary. Now they get the receiver they want as Jon Baldwin falls right to them. Can't the draft be so fun sometimes?
Since cutting once dominant Tommie Harris, the Bears have been looking for an upgrade at defensive tackle. Christian Ballard isn't a pure DT, but that shouldn't scare the Bears away. They are lucky that Ballard has fallen this far and even if he is a tad undersized at only 285 lbs., Ballard is an explosive player and big time space eater who can command multiple blockers and really get into the backfield, all the qualities the Bears are looking for.
Ballard could easily go early in the second round, so if he falls this far the Bears will be sure to gobble him up.
For the first time in a long time the Steelers are going to retool their offensive line, especially if they can't bring back Willie Colon. Marcus Cannon fits their blocking scheme and is a good choice for the Steelers, but nevertheless it's going to be a weird transition for Pittsburgh to replace so many familiar faces.
With Cullen Jenkins unlikely to be resigned and Johnny Jolly facing his second set of drug and paraphernalia charges, DT now becomes a need. Terrell McMclain has lots of upside and would add quality depth. The Packers are said to have been showing interest for good reason.